My pal Chris and I were talking comics the other day and we got into it about the Silver Age and Marvel vs. DC. He asked me what was DC Comics’ greatest creation of the 1960s? I quickly said “that’s easy” but just as quickly realized it wasn’t going to be? The first things that popped into my head were actually re-introductions of Golden Age characters and even though many had new alter egos they really couldn’t qualify as new character creations, and besides most of the big characters actually resurfaced in the late 1950s.
For our argument we decided to use post-November 1961 as the start date, Fantastic Four #1 had just come out and the Marvel Revolution was underway. The next eight years or so saw Marvel introduce dozens and dozens of what are today household name characters, villains and heroes.
What was going on over at DC? I get that they didn’t see what hit them probably until 1964 or so but where was the attempt at matching Marvel’s innovation in character creations?
Chris and I came up with Metal Men (April 1962), Doom Patrol (June 1963), Batgirl (January 1967) and maybe Zatanna (November 1964), I’m sure we missed a couple but certainly none of note. Meanwhile, we had fun rhyming off twenty-plus Marvel big name creations in twenty seconds. Even on the villain side, off the top of our heads, we could only come up with Poison Ivy, Parasite and Black Manta.
It honestly looks like there was no concerted corporate effort on the part of DC to answer back to this garden of innovation flowering just down the street in New York City.
I did check ComiChron and saw that DC was still dominating the yearly sales figures well into the late 1960s with Superman and his related titles always near the top, it wasn’t until 1969 that Amazing Spider-Man became the first Marvel title to crack the top ten. Maybe I’m looking at this through the lens of hindsight maybe I’m being a Monday morning quarterback? Maybe DC didn’t need to change.
Still, I can’t help but think that Julius Schwartz and his execs were aware of the trends, of their stagnant and falling sales numbers and of Marvel’s climbing sales numbers.
Why didn’t DC create more memorable characters in the 1960s? Publishers like Dell, Archie and Charlton were not built on superhero comics but DC was and there was a superhero revolution taking place that DC didn’t really add to, not in a big enough way considering they were already top dog in that genre.